In 2010 the coalition government committed to end the routine detention of children for immigration purposes. To support this commitment, in March 2011 the Home Office changed the way in which it deals with families with no lawful basis of stay in the UK by introducing a new family returns process. This process seeks to give families every opportunity to leave the country voluntarily and places the welfare of the child at its heart.
The family returns process is divided into three stages, they are:
- assisted return
- required return
- ensured return
The government was clear that once the assisted and required return stages had been exhausted and a family failed to leave the UK of their own accord, the Home Office would continue to take steps to make sure they depart. Where necessary, as a last resort to support the family’s removal, this might include a short stay in a new type of facility known as pre-departure accommodation(PDA). The first PDA, Cedars in West Sussex, opened in August 2011.
The approach at the pre-departure accommodation (PDA) is deliberately intended to allow families to stay together as far as possible,
allowing them to lead as normal a family life as possible during a short stay. Security is kept to a minimum, consistent with the need to ensure a safe and secure environment.
There is a particular focus on providing families with support to enable them to come to terms with their situation and prepare for their departure, keeping any emotional distress at having to leave the UK to a minimum.
It was made clear from the beginning that the length of stay at the pre-departure accommodation (PDA) would be limited to a normal maximum of 72 hours prior to the family’s planned removal date.
There is provision for them to remain for up to 7 days in exceptional circumstances, subject to
ministerial approval. They are also subject to advice from the Independent Family Returns Panel
There will continue to be a strong focus on providing families with support at the new facility
to allow them to come to terms with their situation and prepare for their departure from the UK. The
provision of pre-return welfare support to families will continue to be important in ensuring that the
emotional distress they may face as a result of having to leave the country is kept to a minimum.
Residents’ cash and property
To operate a system which provides for residents to retain their own cash and property, alongside a system for safeguarding residents’ larger items of property on request and recording receipt, possession and storage of that property, where requested to do so by residents.
Equality and diversity
To make sure that policies and practices are in place to tackle and eliminate discrimination on the part of staff, residents or any visitor to the facility and to promote equality and diversity in line with the Equality
Pre-return welfare support
To make sure families are provided with advice and counselling, as necessary, to help them prepare for their return, and to deal with any distress caused by their impending departure from the UK.